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Why Shares of Ralph Lauren Are Getting Hammered Again Today

By John Rosevear - Mar 11, 2020 at 1:59PM

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How will the coronavirus affect U.S. retail? That's the big question.

What happened

Shares of Ralph Lauren (RL -1.19%) are down again today as investors an analysts grapple with the potential implications of a virus pandemic reaching the United States. 

As of 1:46 p.m. EDT, Ralph Lauren's shares were down 8% from Tuesday's closing price. 

So what

To some extent, investors have seen this coming. Ralph Lauren warned in February that it expected virus-related disruptions and store closings in Asia to cost it $55 million to $70 million in revenue in the quarter that will end on March 31. 

A close-up of the Ralph Lauren sign on the outside of the company's store in Paris.

Image source: Ralph Lauren.

But now, investors who have been watching the epidemics unfold in places like China, South Korea, and Italy are trying to grasp the implications of a similar scenario in the United States, which now seems likely.

Those implications aren't trivial. Ralph Lauren has over 200 stores in North America that could be forced to close for a period of time, and its products are sold through hundreds of other retailers' locations. Any scenario that keeps Americans home, depressing retail foot traffic -- or that shuts down stores altogether for a time -- will likely hit the company's top and bottom lines hard.

Now what

Ralph Lauren has promised to update its guidance when it reports its fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year results, in May. But it's looking increasingly likely that the pandemic could have significant effects on the company's business in the United States before then. 

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